The Party’s Over (for now)

I started this blog in the summer of 2011 to share my dissertation research and aggregate contemporary shipwreck news. It has been a fantastic experience–we were “freshly pressed” and nominated for the Liebster Award twice (thank you again J.D. and Patrick!). More important, I met a whole bunch of folks interested in shipwrecks, salvage and history. Many gave me a vital scrap of evidence or helped me see things in a new perspective. Thank you for taking the time to send me an email or post a comment–you made my dissertation better. 

But, as the estimable Willie Nelson once put it: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end.” I’m happy to report that I successfully defended my dissertation, “The Shipwreck Shore: Marine Disasters and the Creation of the American Littoral,” last week. It’s been quite a process. I have a veritable boatload of suggestions and comments from my committee concerning how to turn my relatively concise dissertation into a proper book. But first I need some down time–let things peculate a bit–before embarking on the dissertation-to-book project. (I’m also on the job hunt–anyone out there need a hard-working historian?) Until then, Ships on the Shore will be on hiatus. Thanks for tuning in and keep an eye to windward for our return…


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Forgotten Wrecks: Schooner Sea Lion (1875)

Screenshot from 2013-03-04 09:24:41

Late winter/early spring was always a dangerous time for vessels as unsettled weather and frigid conditions contributed to dozens of shipwrecks. Today’s forgotten wreck brings us back to March 4, 1875, when the Boston Daily Journal printed:

Schooner Ashore

ROCKPORT, Mass, March 4. The schooner Sea Lion of Lockport, N.S. [Nova Scotia], Capt. McCanghev, from Clenfuagos for Portland, Me., loaded with molasses went ashore about 10:00 A.M. to-day, at Rockport. The crew were saved by the use of the mortar and life lines. If the storm abates the vessel and cargo may be saved.

The Sea Lion‘s wreck was one of a dozen wrecks reported in American newspapers on that days. Some involved loss of life, but the Sea Lion was representative of nineteenth century shipwrecks along the American coastline. Further particulars about the schooner surfaced over the next few days. According to the Boston Daily Journal of March 6th:

THE WRECK OF THE SCHOONER SEA LION. The schooner Sea Lion, from Cienfuegos for Portland, stranded on the beach at Rockport, Mass., reports having sighted land on the lee bow at 10 A.M. on Thursday during the storm, when an attempt was made to work her off shore, but it was soon made evident she would not go clear, and in order to save life and property, Captain McCanghey ran for the smoothest water and let go anchors, which failed to hold and the vessel was quickly driven ashore. All hands were rescued by means of the Massachusetts Humane Society’s Life Car. A line was thrown to the vessel by the mortar, by which a hawser was hauled to shore, and the life-car was transferred to the wreck and the mariners were pulled safely through the breakers to the land. From previous exposure the captain and crew suffered intensely from the cold and sleet. The captain’s hands were badly frost-bitten.

The survivors are desirous of expressing their heartfelt gratitude to the citizens of Rockport, who rescued them, and also to the Humane Society for their wise and generous act in placing life-saving apparatus at dangerous points along the coast. The wreck lies on a gravelly beach among many single rocks, on of which has been forced through her port bilge, breaking off her keelson and floor timbers. It is doubtful her hull will be worth saving. The cargo of molasses has been discharged and landed on the beach for shipment to its destination, under direction of Captain Moses B. Tower.

I haven’t been able to find any record of the Sea Lion‘s eventual fate, a typical ending for most shipwrecked vessels.

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Forgotten Wrecks: Brig Chatham (1840)


Shipwrecks come in all shapes and sizes. Some result in the total loss of a vessel while others are but a speed bump in an otherwise prosperous career. Today’s forgotten wreck was one of those mundane shipwrecks that became commonplace along the nineteenth-century American shoreline. But intrigue lurks everywhere. Notice the end of this wreck blurb, published in The Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics on February 8, 1840. Seems odd that they would throw the whiskey over first. Maybe a few drams warmed up the shipwrecked and salvors… maybe not.

Brig Chatham of this port [Portsmouth, NH] at N. York, from Wilmington, Del. with meal, flour &c. went ashore on West Bank, Tuesday afternoon where she was taken by ice. She was afterwards towed off and up to Staten Island, by a steamer,–having lost both anchors and chains, and had to stave several bbds. whiskey to lighten her.

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Shipwrecked! in NOLA

We range widely on the shipwreck theme here; no matter how remote the relationship, if something even remotely references a shipwreck it’s fair game. So it’s about time that we mention Shipwrecked!New Orleans’ monthly “one-of-a-kind New Movement Theatre.” While the name caught my eye (I can only speculate why a live storytelling program would be called Shipwrecked!), the podcasts (available here) sold me. Mark your calendar for the the next show on March 3rd at 1919 Burgundy. Hope to see you there!

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We’re back!

Posts have been few and far between the past few months. But now we’re back! I handed in the final draft of my dissertation and I’ve fully–more or less–recovered from the revelry of 20+ Mardi Gras parades. The beads have been sorted, the doubloons have been set aside, and the pictures have been appropriately uploaded. Now it’s time to get back to work.

We’ve got a lot of shipwreck news and archival tidbits to post. We’ll start with this interview of shipsontheshore friend and author Thomas Dresser about his recent book, Disaster off Martha’s Vineyard, on the 18884 wreck of the City of Columbus. Check it out!


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